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“I’ve always identified as an outsider, as someone who doesn’t have a clear identity or home,” Jordan Peele, the writer-director of the breakout hit Get Out, admitted Sunday morning as he spoke at the Produced By conference, presented by the Producers Guild of America on the 20th Century Fox lot, where he took part in a conversation with Norman Lear.
The son of a white mother and a black father, Peele explained that he always identified as African-American, and as he approached Get Out he felt a responsibility to create “a movie that served the black audience, which has never had this type of representation.”
Even as, in 2008, he began writing what would become his directorial debut, Peele confessed he never thought the movie would actually get made because (Big Spoiler Alert!), “I didn’t think anyone would make a movie where a black guy kills a white family at the end, and everyone cheers for him.”
Known for his Comedy Central series Key and Peele, on which he co-starred with Keegan-Michael Key, Peele has stunned the movie business with the horror comedy that confronts racism head on. Get Out, produced by Blumhouse Productions and released by Universal, was made for just $4.5 million and has grossed more than $250 million worldwide.
“I was so transported,” Lear testified of the effect the movie had on him the first time he watched it. “I saw it with my family a few nights later, and then again in the theater. I’ve never been more touched. I lose words when I think about how much this man’s film affected me.”
Lear and Peele spent some time watching and then analyzing a key scene in which the movie’s hero, Chris, played by British actor Daniel Kaluuya, falls under the ominous influence of his prospective mother-in-law, played by Catherine Keener.
“It’s a horror movie. I’ve got to give them a scary scene,” Peele recalled thinking as he wrote it. “And I want to make this one of the scariest scenes of all time.” So for inspiration, he turned to Jonathan Demme’s Silence of the Lambs.
In telling the story of a young black man being introduced to his white girlfriend’s family, Peele revealed how he drew on his experience of beginning to become famous as a result of his television show. As he began to be recognized in public, he said that he realized, “I hadn’t seen a film that explored the fear of unwanted attention,” and, then, in turn, he realized that also offered a metaphor for the black experience.
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